European Commission Defends Pope After Remarks

BRUSSELS, Belgium, SEPT. 18, 2006 ( The European Commission described as unacceptable the "disproportionate" reactions that "reject freedom of speech," such as those expressed after Benedict XVI's words on Islam at a German university.

"Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of the EU's values, as is respect for all religions, Christianity, Islam, Judaism or laicism," said commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger in a press conference today.

The spokesman pointed out that the Pope's address must be considered "in its totality," and not react to "quotes taken out of context and even less so" to "quotes deliberately taken out of context."

He stressed, however, that it is not for the European Commission to clarify or interpret "the theological contribution of the Pope to a theological debate" and he noted that the Holy See has already given explanations.

Laitenberger added that, for many years, the commission "has promoted intercultural dialogue and encouraged interreligious debate because it considers that it is "the best way to foment mutual understanding."